"Thank you for calling Sam's House of Treif. May I take your seder reservation?"
I was very disappointed, but not surprised, to see restaurants advertising their Passover seders in Chicago Jewish News. These restaurants are not kosher during the year and are not kosher for Passover. I am aware that Chicago Jewish News accepts advertising from non-kosher restaurants. The difference is that during the rest of the year, the restaurants do not pretend to be kosher operations. If a reader sees an ad for a Passover seder, however, one might think that such a meal would actually be kosher. One would be wrong. After all, that's the whole point of a Passover seder: Jews having a festive meal to celebrate the exodus of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. The meal is heavy with symbolism, most obviously the complete absence of any leavened bread from the meal, including ingredients in the food. There is no way a non-kosher restaurant can provide a kosher-for-Passover meal. It is not possible under any circumstances. Yet these restaurants conduct a thriving business catering to Jews on one of the most popular Jewish observance events of the year.*
Here is a sample of the ads. The ads have premium placement in the newspaper, next to the editorial copy featuring kosher-for-Passover recipes.
On Waukegan Road in Deerfield: "We make our own gefilte fish!" "Happy Passover/We are serving Passover Dinners on March 29 and March 30/White Linen Dining/Make your reservations now!/Order all your holiday carry-out with us."
On Devon Avenue near Pulaski in Lincolnwood: "Make your Passover Reservations Now/March 29 and 30/Complete Holiday Meals/Adults - $26.95; Children - $14.95/Place your Passover Carry Out Orders Now!"
On Dempster Street at Harlem in Morton Grove: "Passover Dinner/$18.95; $9.95 Children under 12"
On First Street in Highland Park: "Reserve your table for March 29th/5pm-10pm/First Night Seder with our one-hour service with Rabbi ----------------"
At first I thought, Maybe the newspaper will not allow non-kosher restaurants to use the word "seder" since they all use the word "dinner" instead. But the Highland Park restaurant uses the word "seder." It can because it has a service with a rabbi?
These ads need a kashrus alert--kind of an anti-hechsher. "This meal is not kosher for Passover. Carry-out from this restaurant is not kosher for Passover." Perhaps if the newspaper required the restaurants to include such a warning, they wouldn't advertise their Passover meals.
Now we're getting somewhere.
*Another Jewish observance that approaches or surpasses the Passover seder in participation is fasting on Yom Kippur. The number of Jews who participate in the annual Yom Kippur fast exceeds the number of Jews who believe in G-d. Go figure.